Anna karenina, p.62
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       Anna Karenina, p.62

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 28

  When Alexey Alexandrovitch reached the race-course, Anna was alreadysitting in the pavilion beside Betsy, in that pavilion where all thehighest society had gathered. She caught sight of her husband in thedistance. Two men, her husband and her lover, were the two centers ofher existence, and unaided by her external senses she was aware of theirnearness. She was aware of her husband approaching a long way off, andshe could not help following him in the surging crowd in the midst ofwhich he was moving. She watched his progress towards the pavilion, sawhim now responding condescendingly to an ingratiating bow, nowexchanging friendly, nonchalant greetings with his equals, nowassiduously trying to catch the eye of some great one of this world, andtaking off his big round hat that squeezed the tips of his ears. Allthese ways of his she knew, and all were hateful to her. "Nothing butambition, nothing but the desire to get on, that's all there is in hissoul," she thought; "as for these lofty ideals, love of culture,religion, they are only so many tools for getting on."

  From his glances towards the ladies' pavilion (he was staring straightat her, but did not distinguish his wife in the sea of muslin, ribbons,feathers, parasols and flowers) she saw that he was looking for her, butshe purposely avoided noticing him.

  "Alexey Alexandrovitch!" Princess Betsy called to him; "I'm sure youdon't see your wife: here she is."

  He smiled his chilly smile.

  "There's so much splendor here that one's eyes are dazzled," he said,and he went into the pavilion. He smiled to his wife as a man shouldsmile on meeting his wife after only just parting from her, and greetedthe princess and other acquaintances, giving to each what was due--thatis to say, jesting with the ladies and dealing out friendly greetingsamong the men. Below, near the pavilion, was standing anadjutant-general of whom Alexey Alexandrovitch had a high opinion, notedfor his intelligence and culture. Alexey Alexandrovitch entered intoconversation with him.

  There was an interval between the races, and so nothing hinderedconversation. The adjutant-general expressed his disapproval of races.Alexey Alexandrovitch replied defending them. Anna heard his high,measured tones, not losing one word, and every word struck her as false,and stabbed her ears with pain.

  When the three-mile steeplechase was beginning, she bent forward andgazed with fixed eyes at Vronsky as he went up to his horse and mounted,and at the same time she heard that loathsome, never-ceasing voice ofher husband. She was in an agony of terror for Vronsky, but a stillgreater agony was the never-ceasing, as it seemed to her, stream of herhusband's shrill voice with its familiar intonations.

  "I'm a wicked woman, a lost woman," she thought; "but I don't likelying, I can't endure falsehood, while as for _him_ (her husband) it'sthe breath of his life--falsehood. He knows all about it, he sees itall; what does he care if he can talk so calmly? If he were to kill me,if he were to kill Vronsky, I might respect him. No, all he wants isfalsehood and propriety," Anna said to herself, not considering exactlywhat it was she wanted of her husband, and how she would have liked tosee him behave. She did not understand either that AlexeyAlexandrovitch's peculiar loquacity that day, so exasperating to her,was merely the expression of his inward distress and uneasiness. As achild that has been hurt skips about, putting all his muscles intomovement to drown the pain, in the same way Alexey Alexandrovitch neededmental exercise to drown the thoughts of his wife that in her presenceand in Vronsky's, and with the continual iteration of his name, wouldforce themselves on his attention. And it was as natural for him to talkwell and cleverly, as it is natural for a child to skip about. He wassaying:

  "Danger in the races of officers, of cavalry men, is an essentialelement in the race. If England can point to the most brilliant feats ofcavalry in military history, it is simply owing to the fact that she hashistorically developed this force both in beasts and in men. Sport has,in my opinion, a great value, and as is always the case, we see nothingbut what is most superficial."

  "It's not superficial," said Princess Tverskaya. "One of the officers,they say, has broken two ribs."

  Alexey Alexandrovitch smiled his smile, which uncovered his teeth, butrevealed nothing more.

  "We'll admit, princess, that that's not superficial," he said, "butinternal. But that's not the point," and he turned again to the generalwith whom he was talking seriously; "we mustn't forget that those whoare taking part in the race are military men, who have chosen thatcareer, and one must allow that every calling has its disagreeable side.It forms an integral part of the duties of an officer. Low sports, suchas prize-fighting or Spanish bull-fights, are a sign of barbarity. Butspecialized trials of skill are a sign of development."

  "No, I shan't come another time; it's too upsetting," said PrincessBetsy. "Isn't it, Anna?"

  "It is upsetting, but one can't tear oneself away," said another lady."If I'd been a Roman woman I should never have missed a single circus."

  Anna said nothing, and keeping her opera glass up, gazed always at thesame spot.

  At that moment a tall general walked through the pavilion. Breaking offwhat he was saying, Alexey Alexandrovitch got up hurriedly, though withdignity, and bowed low to the general.

  "You're not racing?" the officer asked, chaffing him.

  "My race is a harder one," Alexey Alexandrovitch respondeddeferentially.

  And though the answer meant nothing, the general looked as though he hadheard a witty remark from a witty man, and fully relished _la pointe dela sauce_.

  "There are two aspects," Alexey Alexandrovitch resumed: "those who takepart and those who look on; and love for such spectacles is anunmistakable proof of a low degree of development in the spectator, Iadmit, but..."

  "Princess, bets!" sounded Stepan Arkadyevitch's voice from below,addressing Betsy. "Who's your favorite?"

  "Anna and I are for Kuzovlev," replied Betsy.

  "I'm for Vronsky. A pair of gloves?"

  "Done!"

  "But it is a pretty sight, isn't it?"

  Alexey Alexandrovitch paused while there was talking about him, but hebegan again directly.

  "I admit that manly sports do not..." he was continuing.

  But at that moment the racers started, and all conversation ceased.Alexey Alexandrovitch too was silent, and everyone stood up and turnedtowards the stream. Alexey Alexandrovitch took no interest in the race,and so he did not watch the racers, but fell listlessly to scanning thespectators with his weary eyes. His eyes rested upon Anna.

  Her face was white and set. She was obviously seeing nothing and no onebut one man. Her hand had convulsively clutched her fan, and she heldher breath. He looked at her and hastily turned away, scrutinizing otherfaces.

  "But here's this lady too, and others very much moved as well; it's verynatural," Alexey Alexandrovitch told himself. He tried not to look ather, but unconsciously his eyes were drawn to her. He examined that faceagain, trying not to read what was so plainly written on it, and againsthis own will, with horror read on it what he did not want to know.

  The first fall--Kuzovlev's, at the stream--agitated everyone, but AlexeyAlexandrovitch saw distinctly on Anna's pale, triumphant face that theman she was watching had not fallen. When, after Mahotin and Vronsky hadcleared the worst barrier, the next officer had been thrown straight onhis head at it and fatally injured, and a shudder of horror passed overthe whole public, Alexey Alexandrovitch saw that Anna did not evennotice it, and had some difficulty in realizing what they were talkingof about her. But more and more often, and with greater persistence, hewatched her. Anna, wholly engrossed as she was with the race, becameaware of her husband's cold eyes fixed upon her from one side.

  She glanced round for an instant, looked inquiringly at him, and with aslight frown turned away again.

  "Ah, I don't care!" she seemed to say to him, and she did not onceglance at him again.

  The race was an unlucky one, and of the seventeen officers who rode init more than half were thrown and hurt. Towards the end of the raceeveryone was in a state of agitation, which was intensified by
the factthat the Tsar was displeased.

 
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